Roma left “crushed” by defeat to Sampdoria

La Repubblica (Fabrizio Bocca) That blow hit hard. When Luciano Spalletti was asked, nearly an hour and a quarter after Samp’s 3-2 win against Roma had finished, how the players were feeling, he thought for a moment and replied “crushed”. Indeed, you might well feel “crushed” if you arrived in Genoa dreaming of overtaking Juve – it was hardly guaranteed that they would win against Sassuolo in Reggio Emilia – only to see those dreams slip away after taking a beating.

To summarise: they conceded 3 goals to a Samp side who, instead of being fragile and low on confidence, seemed as though they were fighting for a Champions League place; the gap to Juventus extended from -4 (really, it’s -7); they approached the game like a friendly, vastly underestimating their opponent; a fifth away defeat underlines Roma’s clear reliance on getting results at the Olimpico; and title ambitions are now just a purely mathematical hypothesis or empty pub talk.

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Before the Marassi disaster, Roma had kept 4 consecutive clean sheets, winning 3 of those games 1-0, and hadn’t conceded a goal for 344 minutes. Samp, meanwhile, hadn’t scored for 470 minutes. But Praet, Schick and Muriel’s goals – the first 2 scoring equalisers after Peres and Dzeko put Roma ahead, before the Colombian scored the winner from a free kick – could be a watershed in the Giallorossi’s season. Their dream of a scudetto may no longer be attainable – in fact, Spalletti’s team may be better off looking over their shoulders.

It was immediately obvious, even when Roma were in control of the game, that their defence was the problem, or rather their defensive setup. Spalletti, in his typical and inimitable Tuscan theatrical style, continually shouted and waved his arms at his defenders, even slapping himself on his bald head: “Use your head! Use your head!” But Roma weren’t using their heads, in any sense.

Spalletti was particularly irate with Vermaelen, who he had deliberately chosen to start ahead of Manolas. Instead, the talented Muriel had the freedom of that side of the pitch to do what he wanted, setting off on dribbles and setting up chances, and ultimately stopping Roma in their tracks. There were just 4 minutes between Schick’s introduction, his equalising goal to make it 2-2, and Muriel’s free kick. The length of a round of boxing.

It was game over for Roma, though things might have ended differently in a frantic finish. Dzeko was brought down by Silvestre in injury time, and referee Mazzoleni would have given a penalty if he hadn’t been stopped by the linesman flagging for a non-existent offside. Spalletti and Roma fans didn’t take that decision well, even if – objectively speaking – it would be impossible for them to claim there was some sort of conspiracy in favour of Sampdoria.

Instead, Spalletti simply pointed the error out through gritted teeth with his usual irony. “The linesman was distracted, because it was an easy decision to make for linesmen of the quality we have in Italy. It’s an episode that’s left us a bit unhappy, that’s all.” Just a bit…

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